What do bartenders, distillers, and craft brewers have in common?
They love to be creative, innovative, and cutting-edge. Recently, it seems, they also share an affinity for the bitter taste of hops. I’m not talking about your run-of-the-mill beer cocktail here. I’m talking about cocktails that bypass beer and incorporate hoppy bitterness directly into the drink. Sometimes that process begins with distillers who infuse their spirits with hops, but often it’s the bartender and mixologist creating hoppy cocktail concoctions right in the bar.
Take, for example, the “Hop Scotch” from Park Avenue Autumn in New York City, which is a combination of blended Scotch whiskey and homemade Citra hoop-infused honey. Bryan Schneider, bar director of Fourth Wall Restaurants, who owns Park Avenue Autumn, remarked on the making of Hop Scotch:
“We make a tea with whole cone Citra hops and boiling water then we stir in an equal amount of honey to make the syrup. The hops element is definitely subtle. The cocktail is a boozy cocktail modeled after a Scotch Old Fashioned, with the hops serving as the bitter element to complement the scotch and honey.”
- 2 oz. Blended Scotch, such as Black Bottle or Monkey Shoulder
- 1/2 oz Hop Infused Honey*
Preparation: Stir in mixing glass. Strain over a large ice cube. Garnish with a lemon and orange peel.
*Hop infused honey
- Add 1 cup water, and 1/4 cup packed whole cone Citra Hops to a pot
- Bring to boil, and stir in 1 cup honey. Turn off heat, and let cool 10 minutes.
- Strain off hops through a fine mesh strainer.
Of course, when it comes to hops, most craft brewers deal with them on a daily basis. Many of those brewers are also experimenting with hops-infused cocktails, too, such as Headquarters Beercade in Chicago. They offer “Hop Gun,” with Citra hop-infused Ford’s Gin, grapefruit liqueur, and lemon.
Tim Williams, HQ Beercade’s mixologist, commented, “The idea started with ‘beer cocktails.’ I took all of the most common flavor descriptors for recognizable, approachable styles and looked to see how I could turn them into cocktails. It’s shamefully easy to make: We let the hops sit in the gin for about a half an hour and then, we double strain the hops out, through fine mesh and cheesecloth. Citra [has] a really clean, distinct, recognizable flavor. The bitterness from the hops is pronounced, but still plays well with grapefruit and lemon and the bite from the gin. It’s still really juicy and refreshing, but it’s definitely bitter.”
- 2 oz. Citra Hop-infused Ford’s Gin
- 1/2 oz. Combier Grapefruit Liqueur
- 1/2 oz. Simple Syrup
- 1/2 oz. Lemon Juice
Preparation: Combine all ingredients, shake and strain into a collins glass. Pack with crushed ice, garnish with grapefruit wheel.
For something truly unique, though, head to Madison, Wisconsin’s Quince & Apple, where they make a rhubarb syrup infused with Citra and Hallertau hops. It’s perfect as a cocktail mixer in their Rhubarb Rise.
Matt Fehsenfeld, one-half of the husband-wife team that created Quince & Apple, stated,
“We experimented with a wide range of varietals, steep times and temperatures, pellets vs whole leaf as well as a few other variables. We were shooting for nice grapefruit and herbal notes, with only a little bitterness, and it was these two hops together that allowed us to get it just right.”
You can purchase 250ml of Rhubarb syrup shipped to you for $13.50 (or 1000ml for $47.50). The website notes that the syrups “are shelf-stable, so they’ll last indefinitely unopened, and 6-8 weeks or longer once opened if refrigerated.”
- 2 oz. Tequila, such as Casadores
- 1 1/2 oz. Rhubarb Hops Syrup
- 4 oz. Fresh Squeezed Orange Juice
- 1 oz. Club Soda
Preparation: Pour tequila and orange juice into a highball glass with ice. Stir. Add rhubarb syrup alongside of glass, allowing it to sink to the bottom. Carefully top drink with club soda. Garnish with a cherry or orange slice.
Many bars offer cocktails on a limited basis, notably due to the seasonal availability of certain hop varieties or the nature of the cocktail itself. Nevertheless, it is that same variety and seasonal freshness that has provided another chapter in the latest round of cocktail invention.
However, if your nearby bar or brewery has nothing hoppy on its cocktail menu, you have other options. You can select from an increasingly large selection of hops-infused spirits, hops-infused sodas and mixers, or even have hops shipped directly to your home.
The growing number of hops-infused cocktails is truly astounding. Hops have added a new dimension to the already exploding world of distillation cocktail experimentation. That leaves only one question…
Are you ready to “hop” on board?